Contributed by James Kelly
I’m a gambling addict. What started as a simple after work activity with the guys from the office quickly spiraled into something that became an obsession. At the height of my addiction, I was gambling not only entire paychecks, but also taking advances on my future pay, selling things from my own house, and even borrowing money from friends and relatives. I was past the point of being able to call myself a recreational gambler. I was an addict.
I needed help. Luckily, I sought treatment. My wife and I started researching gambling rehabilitation centers, and decided on one based on its proximity to my home. It helped that it was a male-only facility with experts on staff that were well-versed in the nuances of addiction.
Here’s what I learned:
It’s a disease.
My wife, my friends, my family… they all thought that this was as simple as me stopping. What they didn’t realize is that the brain of an addict is wired differently from those that aren’t. If I had stopped going to the casino, I would have just sought out other means to fulfill the high that was brought on by gambling. It became something that was no longer fun, but instead a drug that I needed in order to get through my day-to-day life.
I couldn’t fix it on my own.
I didn’t just wake up one day and decide that I might have a problem. The problematic behavior was quite apparent for months before I ever sought treatment. In fact, I knew that each trip to the casino was a bad idea, but yet I rationalized it internally and went anyway. I was constantly telling myself that I had discovered a new trick, a strategy, or had a hot tip that would ensure success and that this could be the one that brought me back into the black for the year. I couldn’t stop, and there was no amount of self realization that could make me not place that next bet.
The gambling addiction was merely a symptom of an addictive behavior.
I was an addict. The gambling part was merely a symptom, much like an addiction to alcohol, drugs, or sex. I was seeking a high that only my problem behavior could facilitate, and if it hadn’t been gambling then it could have just as easily been alcohol.
Support following my treatment was just as important – if not more so – than the treatment itself.
After I finished treatment, I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t gambling anymore, but I was at a point where I was only accountable to myself, and that was a scary proposition. I quickly sought additional care through the form of group and individual therapy that would help me to make it through this trying time. I needed someone – besides myself – to remain accountable to, and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. My post-sobriety treatment kept me accountable for my actions, and may have been the biggest overall factor in my recovery. In fact, I’m still utilizing group therapy to this day, even thought I haven’t placed a wager in months.
It’s been months since I’ve placed my last bet, and I know now that I’ll never be able to place another one… even casually. I know that there are triggers in my behavior and if they aren’t avoided one harmless wager can send me spiraling back into the exact life that I chose to leave. I’m an addict, and that will never change. What will change, however, is how I deal with my addiction. I’m on the road to recovery now, and I’d encourage anyone who may have a problem to seek the help they need, before it’s too late.
James Kelly has had many personal struggles with addiction over the past 6 years but is able to take more steps forward when he is open about it. Writing, blogging, and talking about his personal development has put himself into an all-time best position with his family and friends and being open has gotten James this far, there is no limit to how far he can move past previous mistakes to a happy future.